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Robert Delaunay

French, 1885–1941

Soleil, Tour, Aéroplane (Sun, Tower, Airplane), 1913

Oil on canvas
52 x 51 5/8 inches (132.1 x 131.1 cm)
A. Conger Goodyear Fund, 1964

Sun, Tower, Airplane reflects Robert Delaunay’s enthusiasm for the technological developments of the time in which he lived. For him, technology was not the antithesis of nature; he believed they could coexist harmoniously. Thus the sun mentioned in the title suffuses the entire canvas with warm colors and energy surrounding three symbols of technological achievement.

In 1889, the Eiffel Tower, the tallest structure of its time, was erected in Paris for the World’s Fair. Designed by French engineer Alexandre Eiffel, it allowed Parisians to view their city from an exciting new vantage point. Although many people considered it an eyesore, Delaunay was fascinated by the tower and painted it many times. Above, a biplane soars. The Wright brothers had successfully flown the first biplane only ten years before, at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The inclusion of the biplane here is homage to French aviator and inventor Louis Blériot, who, in 1909, became the first to fly across the English Channel. At the extreme right is an evocation of the popular carnival ride invented in 1893 by American engineer George Ferris for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

Delaunay’s feelings about these technological marvels are reflected in the lively, energetic lines and shapes, and the warm, bright colors. The disk-like forms represented for him the rhythms of the universe and modern consciousness, which included nature, technology, and human beings.


Related Lesson Plan

The World Around Us (For Grades 3–12)


Related Activities

Activities for Families (PDF)


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